SC allows Mumbai rape survivor to terminate 24-week-old abnormal foetus
Under Section 5 of the MTP Act, pregnancy beyond 20 weeks could be terminated only if there is a threat to the life of the mother.
New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Monday granted liberty to an alleged rape survivor to terminate her 24-week-old pregnancy on grounds of an abnormal foetus.
On July 22, the SC had directed the Maharashtra government to set up a seven-member medical board of King Edward Memorial College and Hospital at Mumbai to examine the rape victim.
The hospital submitted a report in this regard on Monday.
A bench of Justices JS Khehar and Arun Mishra perused the report of the medical board stating that the continuance of pregnancy would gravely endanger the physical and mental health of the mother.
The bench considered the report of the board which said that the foetus has multiple severe abnormalities.
It passed the order after taking assistance of Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi who said that there is a provision in the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act, 1971 which allows the termination of pregnancy after 24 weeks if there is a threat to the life of the mother.
"We grant liberty to the petitioner and if she desires to terminate the pregnancy, she is permitted," the bench said.
The bench further said it is satisfied with the diagnosis of the medical board which has opined that the termination of pregnancy can be done.
The petitioner had sought the court's direction for the termination of her pregnancy as under Section 3(2) of the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act, 1971, pregnancy beyond 20 weeks could not be terminated.
She had also challenged the constitutional validity of the section.
The court was given the medical report which says that stomach of the foetus was uncovered and as a result, the intestines were growing outside it. The report further says that the foetus's skull too was not fully developed, and holds chances of its survival were from zero to a few hours.
However, under Section 5 of the MTP Act, pregnancy beyond 20 weeks could be terminated only if there is a threat to the life of the mother. In the instant case, there is no threat to the life of the mother but the foetus is abnormal and the chances of its survival are remote.
The petitioner had contended that this ceiling of 20 weeks could have been justified when this law was enacted in 1971 but it does not hold ground today given the advancement in technology that allows safe termination of pregnancy even after 20 weeks right up to 26 weeks.
She had further contended that the artificially fixing of the upper limit of 20 weeks was arbitrary as women who get the reports of serious foetal abnormality after the 20th week have to suffer excruciating pain and agony on account of the deliveries that they are forced to go through.
The petition had said that in conformity with international laws, Albania, Australia, Belgium, Canada, China, Croatia, Denmark, Iceland, Israel, Luxembourg, Nepal, Netherlands, Slovakia, South Africa, Britain, and the US have not fixed any absolute time limits in their abortion laws.
Instead, the petition said that these countries consider the woman's physical and mental health and doctors' expert opinions in determining whether a medical termination of pregnancy can be performed post 20 weeks.
(With Agency inputs)